Medical personnel wear protective gear to wheel a patient into St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel

Medical personnel wear protective gear to wheel a patient into St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel

B.C.’s earliest COVID-19 vaccines go to health care workers first

Aim is to immunize 400,000 people by end of March

More COVID-19 vaccine will be needed to arrest the pandemic spread in B.C., but the first people to be immunized will receive it next week, public health officials say.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix described the early days of the coronavirus vaccine plan Wednesday, with 4,000 doses of frozen Pfizer vaccine arriving at two sites in Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health next week packed in dry ice.

Health care workers in long-term care and the acute wards dealing with sick COVID-19 patients are priority one, followed by long-term care residents, seniors over 80 years old in the community, and those at risk because of chronic conditions, including people in Vancouver homeless shelters and in first nations communities where chronic health conditions are also prevalent.

“We’re going to take our limited doses in the first few weeks to months of this program and try to protect as many people as possible,” Henry told reporters in Victoria Dec. 9. “With the doses we expect to have between now and the end of March, we should be able to immunize close to 400,000 people in B.C. That is not enough to stop the pandemic. It’s not enough to prevent transmission in our communities widely, and to stop the pandemic in its tracks.

“But I think once we get past March and we get more vaccines, and different vaccines in higher numbers, that’s when we are going to be able to reach that threshold.”

After people with chronic conditions and poor housing, the next priority will be some paramedics, firefighters, people with higher exposure such as grocery store workers, food processing staff and teachers. Henry was asked why emergency workers and teachers aren’t higher priority.

“We are not seeing transmission in schools,” Henry said. “We are not seeing firefighters exposed.”

The Pfizer vaccine is the first approved by Health Canada, and it requires low-temperature storage. As with the Moderna vaccine expected to be approved next, it is not yet tested for use on people under 16, pregnant or with compromised immune systems. Henry said later vaccines with more conventional formulas are expected to be approved soon, which can be used for these groups.

RELATED: B.C. counts 619 new cases, 16 more deaths Wednesday

RELATED: Rapid testing pilot program is all B.C. can do now

Dr. Ross Brown, director of regional emergency operations at Vancouver Coastal Health, is the incident commander of B.C.’s roll-out, with a background in military operations. He said the vaccine program will scale up to seven locations by the end of January.

“Our approach will be slow, steady and nimble at the beginning, and ramping up as more vaccine becomes available,” Brown said. “We consider this a no-fail mission, and we will get it done.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicsCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Cori Lausen, bat specialist. Photo: Submitted
Kaslo biologist questions logging at unique West Kootenay bat site

Dr. Cori Lausen, a bat specialist, studies a population of bats above Beasley

Robbie Campbell lost his livelihood when the pandemic shut down Shambhala Music Festival. Instead, he spent part of 2020 working on a children’s book called Tulip that is now available. Photo: Submitted
In a lousy year, a Kootenay man was saved by a pink T-rex

Robbie Campbell became a children’s author after the pandemic cost him his livelihood

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
RCMP: Small tin saved Trail man from stabbing

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

School District 8 is asking the education ministry to stop making the Foundation Skills Assessment data public. File photo
Kootenay Lake School District requests education ministry make annual student assessments private

The district is concerned the data is being misused by the Fraser Institute

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Pfizer shipments down until February, to be made up in March

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training announced funding to train community mental health workers at four B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Stock photo)
B.C. funding training of mental health workers at four post-secondary institutions

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Sunnybank
COVID-19 related deaths at Oliver, West Kelowna and Vernon senior care homes

Sunnybank, Heritage Retirement Residence and Noric House recorded deaths over the weekend

Most Read